Have you seen the advertisement in an Italian newspaper for a Racketeering Convention where the price of admission is four stolen hubcaps? No? Per-haps you’ve seen the ad in Ebony magazine for a Martin Luther King Memorial Water-melon Eating competition? No? How about the open invitation to our Jewish brethren to attend a Nazi Barbeque? No? And I hope to God that you never will! That is vulgar and degrading ethnic stereotyping at its tasteless worst. But brace your-selves, for the season of Paddy Bashing is upon us and we are about to be assaulted by similar tasteless and insulting slander aimed at our heritage in the name of freedom of cultural expression.
One sad example is the release of a new whiskey bearing the name of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes – Michael Collins. Not only is the product not Irish, but the firm promoting it knows little or nothing about the glorious name it chose to degrade. Shame on the member of the Collins Clan who sold the rights to that name, for that name was not his to sell; it be-longs to the Irish people!
Another classic example of ethnic slander can be found in the insulting Irish Music ‘Drinkfest Weekend’ presented by the Villa Roma Resort on March 31 – a 3-day dip into debauchery with such attractions as body art and pint-drinking contests amid the advertised safety of No Driving. Sadly, the ad does not mention the dangers of binge drinking or the drive home. As host Ed Ryan is quoted as saying, “If you can’t find me drunk, I’m out drinking somewhere!” The sad part of this one is that it is Irish – at least some of the bands are Irish, and they’ve made a decent living from Irish audiences, but then it has been said that if you put an Irishman on a spit, you can always find another to turn him. In history, we know such characters as Gombeen Men who take advantage of their own to benefit themselves. The only thing green that they value is the almighty dollar.
None of this is new for history shows that in order to subjugate the Irish, the Crown had to destroy their culture. The powerful nature of that culture drove England to mock its expression, parody it significance, and ridicule its supporters. Enter the comic lush known as the stage Irishman – an individual so captivated by booze that no one could take him seriously. When that image followed them across the ocean to America, the Irish opposed it, as they could not do in their British-dominated homeland. One N.Y. Times article dated May 7, 1902 was entitled, “War on the Irish Comedian: AOH starts a crusade against publications which cartoon Irishmen.” It reported that, “John T. Keating, National President of the Irish organization, brought the news to Chicago when he came back from the East today (that a) crusade will be directed against newspapers and other publications which cartoon the Irish-man.” Among the Stage Irish who were chased off the burlesque boards with fruit and vegetable missiles were the Irish-American Russell Brothers who portrayed Irish maids as bumbling buffoons always into the master’s liquor cabinet after which they would dance a jig or perform some other nonsense. The anti-defamation campaign was soon picked up by other Irish groups and continued for years. As late as 25-years later the N.Y. Times noted on Oct 5, 1927 that the American Irish Vigilance Committee was filing charges against MGM for producing several anti-Irish films. Would that we had such Irish in our midst today! But, we can dream.
We can dream of Michael Collins Whiskey going bankrupt, or at least changing its name. And while I pray that no one gets hurt there or on the way home, I can dream of a massive clean-up effort required by the Villa Roma to repair the damage caused by the riff-raff to whom they are catering. I also dream of Irishmen writing bags of letters: letters to the Villa Roma to express their out-rage; letters to the entertainers appearing at the ‘Drinkfest Weekend’ putting them on notice that they will no longer be supported by the Irish community – no more concerts and no more record sales; and letters to our Irish radio programs urging no more air play for these of-fenders.
Somehow this always seems to happen around the feast of our Patron Saint whom some still insist on calling St. Paddy. The truth of the matter is that the difference between Paddy’s Day and St Patrick’s Day is the same as the difference between the office Christmas party and Midnight Mass. There’s a lot more I could say on this subject, but I have some letters to write. Won’t you join me; IT’S YOUR HERITAGE – DEFEND IT!!!